In the late 1800s, when a cargo vessel entered the Puget Sound, it would take on longshoremen at its first port of call, then those men would remain on the ship to work the vessel at all ports in the area.
In mid-June of 1886, the “Queen of the Pacific” put into Seattle where she took on six longshoremen. The longshoremen were charter members of the newly established Seattle Stevedores, Longshoremen and Riggers Union (SL&RU), predecessor of ILWU Local 19. During June and July, the= vessel discharged and loaded cargo at docks in the Puget Sound, working its way up to British Columbia.
On June 9, 1886, the Queen was docked in Nanaimo, British Columbia, where a powerful blast ripped through the ship’s hold, taking the lives of the six charter members of the SL&RU: Hans Hanson, August Johnson, William Kade, William McDonald, Patrick Priestly and William Robee. For 59 years, the tragedy was the worst waterfront accident in the history of the West Coast.
The explosion occurred at five minutes before noon on July 29, 1886, at the Nanaimo coal dock where Seattle coal passers were winging coal into the corners of the ship’s hold. Suddenly, a ton of coal hit the center of the lower deck; a clap shook the ship from aft to stern anda sheet of flame flashed upward from the hold to the upper deck.
The SL&RU coal gang was engulfed by flames. As they were carried out of the lower hold, eyewitnesses saw that hair had been burned from their heads and faces; flesh hung in shreds and their “cries were most heart-rending.”
The severely burned men also included eight seamen. Horse-drawn wagons carried the injured to the Nanaimo Hospital where three doctors worked around the clock for two weeks to save lives. One by one, all of the longshore workers and two sailors died from seared lungs and skin burns A court of inquiry later determined that coal dust had ignited from spontaneous combustion. They ruled that the explosion was an accident that could not have been prevented. Ten months later, an explosion killed 155 miners at the same mine that provided coal for the “Queen of the Pacific.” Another court of inquiry found the second explosion also an “unavoidable accident.”
During the century that followed, coal miners in North America fought to end coal dust and methane explosions that were claimed by employers and their experts to be “unavoidable.”
Union members in the United States finally succeeded in passing the Mine Safety and Health Act in 1977 that led to significant safety and health improvements.
Seattle longshore workers installed a plaque at the Nanaimo gravesite in 1886 to commemorate the deaths of their union brothers and to thank the people of Nanaimo for caring for them. But after 128 years, the plaque had disintegrated. Seattle Pensioners commissioned Local 19 member and artist Ron Gustin to replicate the original plaque.
The new monument is a bronze relief mounted on charcoal black granite that measures 20 x 6 x 28, and weighs 575 pounds. Father Piotr Lapinski, who was in charge of St. Peter’s Cemetery, graciously agreed to the re-installation.
At the 2015 rededication Lapinski’s successor Father Krzysztofy (Chris) Pastuszka delivered the benediction for the fallen six.
Seattle Pension President Carl Woeck read the original SL&RU message that was dedicated in 1886:
“We wish to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation of the services rendered our six comrades by the citizens of Nanaimo and missionary Charles Seghers following the recent accident on the Queen of the Pacific. Our fallen union brothers Hans Hanson, August Johnson, William Kade, William McDonald, Patrick Priestley and William Robee rest in peace in your care. Should the opportunity ever present itself, the people of Nanaimo may rest assured that the longshoremen of Seattle will endeavor to repay the debt that they so justly owe them.”
Stevedores, Longshoremen and Riggers Union of Washington Territory
Frederick D. Sprague, President
Henry Storey, Secretary
August 7, 1886
After the graveyard ceremony, Americans and Canadians met at the Bastion Hotel in Nanaimo for lunch. Seattle Pensioner Vice President Ian Kennedy was the banquet emcee.
Speakers included ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko, Local 19 President Jason Gross, Seattle Pensioner President Carl Woeck and ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. Comradeship between Canadian and American longshoremen was the theme of the remarks. All stressed that remembrance of the terrible tragedy had strengthened the bonds of friendship, and that we are part of a worldwide family who will always be considered brothers and sisters.
At the luncheon, it was noted that another longshore tragedy happened in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 6, 1945. The steamship Green Hill Park blew up and killed six longshoremen and two seamen. Somehow, whisky, flares and sodium chlorate had been stored together in ‘tween decks in Hold 3. The flammable cargo exploded and blew out a steel bulkhead that killed Donald G. Bell, Joseph A. Brooks, William T. Lewis, Morton McGrath, Montague E. Munn and Walter Peterson. Seamen Julius Kern and Donald Munn, who were in a room directly above the exploding cargo, also perished from asphyxiation.
Ronald Magden, historian; with Mark Gordienko, President ILWU and Charles Zuckerman, Local 500
Elections have serious consequences for ILWU members and their families – especially for ILWU longshore workers who recently found themselves being targeted by Republican members in Congress. Here’s how it happened.
In 2014, Republicans took over the United States Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. The Democratic Party played it safe and failed to outline a progressive agenda for working families. In the absence of a Democratic agenda to vote for, voters found something to vote against, registering their anger against growing unfairness in the economy.
Attitudes measured by exit polls were negative in the extreme, with 8 in 10 saying they were dissatisfied by the performance of Congress, and 54 percent giving the thumbs down to Obama. A majority of voters were unhappy with the U.S. economic system itself, with nearly two thirds saying it’s unfair and favors the wealthy – and only 32 percent saying it’s fair to most people.
Instead of changing the economy to work for the majority of Americans, the newly elected Republican Congress decided to throw their weight behind the rich and powerful, trampling the working class.
One unifying belief held by the Republican leadership is that they do not like strong unions, so they have focused their efforts against a strong union – the ILWU – that fights without apology for good wages, health and pension benefits, and safe workplaces.
In the last month, U.S. Senators, Senator Cory Gardner (Republican from Colorado) and Senator John Thune (Republican from South Dakota) made speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate, asking other Senators to support their efforts to punish the ILWU for standing up to employers. Senator Gardner proposed legislation to extend powers to Governors to meddle in the collective bargaining process between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association.
Senator Thune introduced legislation (The Port Performance Act) which mandates that the federal government monitor productivity and gather statistics on longshore workers.
Unfortunately, a part of the Port Performance Act (S. 1298) was included in a comprehensive transportation bill that passed the Senate.
Senator Mazie Hirono (Democrat- Hawaii) prepared an amendment to the bill that would have struck the port metrics section from the bill, but Senate Republicans refused to allow her to offer the amendment on the floor. The Senate Republican leadership also slipped in a provision that would allow automation costs to be funded through federal government grants to ports.
The ILWU Washington office and the ILWU grassroots legislation action committee are working long hours to stop the Port Performance Act and government-funded automation from being considered in the House of Representatives. We are engaged in meetings with House members who serve on the Transportation Committee including moderate Republicans.
We are broadening our coalition to include port managers and some terminal operators who may want to work with the ILWU rather than work against us.
If the Port Performance Act passes both Houses and is signed by President Obama, it would cause many negative – and some unexpected consequences.
It would impose a top-down system of federal productivity measurements on port workers. The bill calls on the federal government to collect metrics from ports, including a count of the number of crane moves made by operators at each of our nation’s largest ports. If the legislation becomes law, some unscrupulous terminal operators will try to speed up operations on the docks in order to appear more appealing to shippers, endangering worker health and safety. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the number of accident reports in the longshore industry at 6.6 accidents per 100 workers. This is twice the rate of accidents in the coal mining industry. If the proposed legislation becomes law, accidents are likely to increase, with more worker deaths and permanently disabilities.
A provision added to the Senate Transportation bill lists electronic roads and driverless trucks within ports as a project that could be funded through federal freight transportation grants. If this federal subsidy is implemented at maritime facilities, funding for automation projects will expand because of federal tax dollars, not market demands, and the number of workers employed at our nation’s ports could be significantly reduced. Driverless trucks and electronic roads will not increase overall port productivity – but they will destroy thousands of jobs and harm local communities, while the federal subsidies create a windfall for terminal operators – most of whom are foreign-owned.
ILWU members can play an important role in stopping ant-union legislation from becoming law. Your member of Congress can be reached at 202-225-3121. Tell your Representative the following:
- You are concerned the Senate Transportation bill has been combined with the Port Performance Act and a government subsidy for automation on the docks.
- The Senate Transportation bill would kill jobs by funding driverless trucks.
- The Port Performance Act will lead to increased accidents, fatalities and injuries.
- The Act will harm communities who depend on good jobs at our nation’s ports.
- Ask that your member of Congress vote against any bill that includes these measures.
This report was prepared by the ILWU’s Legislative Director, Lindsay McLaughlin.
Members of the Maritime Union Australia, Queensland Branch in Brisbane recently recorded a solidarity message to the ILWU while on the picket line.
Press Release - Houston IWW, August 11, 2015
The fight against Felipe Serna has concluded. Serna wrote a check to Hector, Pancho, and Mauricio which was promptly cashed this morning.
After our letter delivery, folks will recall that we organized a phone blast of The Growing Tree daycare and Felipe’s cell. It was very effective; his phone didn’t stop ringing and he was in tears begging for mercy. But when the calls ceased, his verbal commitment to settling turned into indignation as he failed to follow through and after a few days texted us an image of his “lawyer’s” business card, the second attorney he had threatened us with.
So we got indignant too and last night covered the surrounding neighborhood of The Growing Tree with “Wanted for Wage Theft” posters with his image prominently on the front. We made sure to leave one on the front door of the daycare. The next morning he wrote a check.
This is an important first victory for the Houston IWW and we couldn’t have done it without your support. Thanks to the folks who showed up at the ass crack of dawn for the demand delivery and thanks to the many people who participated in the phone blast.
While we can’t know if Serna will steal wages again, he will certainly consider the costs. And that is what we want every employer in Houston to do; consider that there are forces that they will have to contend with when they steal from labor-power.
We also know that to seriously challenge wage theft and to build workers power, we need an active and fighting working class, something we cannot create by sheer will. Instead, we do what we can with the resources we have until that becomes a general condition. In addition to fighting on the job, we need to fight against Adrian Garcia, the police, and ICE, we need to organize with detainees against incarceration, we need to defend our homes and neighborhoods from landlords and banks, we need to fight the grassroots Right and the fascists among them, we need to fight against racist school boards and curriculum, etc.
The IWW is committed to fighting against all of these forces. An injury to one is an injury all!!
By Luz Sierra - Miami IWW, August 5, 2015
Five years had passed since I first began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). A CNA is a health care provider that assists Registered Nurses (RN’s). They are the ones considered to do the “dirty work” in healthcare: changing, bathing, feeding, and providing any form of assistance to patients that RN’s do not have the time or opportunity to provide in today’s fast-paced and multi-tasking health care environment. Through providing care to patients, I have seen many of the atrocities of today’s society, especially with mental health.
The past year I was offered a patient companion (sitter) position at a local hospital after being laid off at my previous workplace for organizing. It is a pretty chill job. Depending on the census, I either provide one-to-one care or one-to-two patients care who are at risk to fall and are under Baker Act (a Florida mental health law that forces a patient to remain in the facility and to be under supervision up to 72 hours because of potential harm to self or others), or high risk patients likely to be injured. Throughout the majority of my employment there, I have mostly seen patients with mental health disorders. Among them are the elderly that are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In my experience, they are not given enough or any treatment at all. They are only given medication that sedates them for hours or they are simply ignored by RN’s. An individual with such an ailment could become very anxious, agitated, and disorientated which leads to many problems. For instance, they often attempt to get out of bed unsafely due to memory loss, they can remove their intravenous therapy (IV) if they are bothered by it, and they will sometimes attempt to physically hurt people they do not recognize as they become anxious and fearful of everyone. The list can go on. Mental health disorders are not easily treated, so there are moments when you will need help from CNA’s, RN’s, or even administration. Unfortunately such help is non-existent at times, like one day at work when I was assigned a patient that had Alzheimer’s and was extremely confused.
On that day I received the patient in a difficult situation. The first moment I arrived to her room, she was already punching and kicking the CNA who was trying to prevent her from getting out of bed. The CNA warned me to be careful since she was very combatant; she wasn’t lying. I spent the first two hours preventing her from getting out of bed while she attempted to repeatedly punch and kick me. Eventually a physical therapist stopped by and walked her to the bathroom and around the room. Afterwards, the nurse provided her medication that calmed and reoriented her. After taking her medication, the patient began to talk to me kindly, telling me about her life until she fell asleep for about thirty minutes. When she woke up, the medication was no longer effective so she was agitated and confused again. She wanted to leave her room, but wasn’t allowed to, so she was pushing and hitting me, and screaming loudly for help. I wanted to back away from her since that’s what you are taught when dealing with an aggravated patient, but I couldn’t as she was trying to get up and placing herself at risk of falling. I called the nurse to tell her what was happening, but all she did was stop by and talk to the patient. When she left, the patient became aggressive again.
During the next three hours I called the nurse five times, but she didn’t do anything other than try to calm the patient through talking to her. There’s no problem with that but if the patient is hurting herself and trying to attack caregivers there should be a better alternative. I am not a big advocate of medication, but in my opinion, it’s better to sedate a patient in order to prevent any further harm if the RN is not going to be there 24/7 and if a patient companion has limited options to prevent a patient from hurting anyone or herself. Luckily, another nurse stopped by and took the patient to visit her husband who was also hospitalized. I was ordered to stay with her as she visited her husband. She was calm for a while, but then became agitated and wanted to leave the room in order to search for her children who weren’t there. I had to take her back to her room where she didn’t want to stay, and spent another three hours walking back and forth from her room to her husband’s room. Along the way she would hit and scream at me while the nursing staff were all watching and did nothing.
By members of the Merseyside IWW – Liverpool IWW, August 5, 2015
About twenty people met in Liverpool Central Library’s meeting room 2 last night, as part of IWW national secretary Dave Pike’s speaking tour of England, Scotland and Wales. Dave’s presentation – called ‘Your Class Needs You’ – attracted a mixture of members, prospective new wobblies (or ‘probblies’ in IWW lingo) and people who were just curious what the IWW they knew from tales of Joe Hill were up to nearly a century after his murder.
It was a lot less eventful than the last time Liverpool IWW met on William Brown Street. In 1921, scouse wobblies led by the writer George Garrett occupied the front of the Walker Art Gallery, and were met with a full scale police riot.
For all us IWW members love the old stories, this was evening very much focused on the IWW of today, and how a new generation of relatively young, casualised workers are leading the way with some inspirational campaigns and struggles. We watched videos of workers from Starbucks, Jimmy Johns and London language schools fighting for improvements to their working lives.
The modern day Liverpool IWW are planning some big things over the next few months, and are thrilled to have settled into our new home of Liverpool Central Library. Watch this space, as well as our Facebook and Twitter. And yes, JOIN US! https://iww.org.uk/join
August 4, 2015: James Hoffa has given up on protecting Teamster pensions, but not his own millionaire retirement plan. In 2014 the IBT put $65,004 of your dues money into Hoffa’s pension.
You read that right, Hoffa got $65,004 paid into his pension in just one year. It would take a YRC Teamster over 17 years to earn in pension contributions what members paid Hoffa last year alone.
Hoffa’s been in office going on 16 years, so do the math. He’s taken in a million bucks in pension contributions and could retire today with a lump-sum payment of over $2 million—plus free family health care for life.
Hoffa’s retirement windfall comes courtesy of the Retirement and Family Protection Plan, an exclusive fund reserved only for International Union officers and the International staff.
Last year the IBT put $16 million into the Family Plan to make sure those lump sum payouts are funded and fully-protected.
When union officers look after themselves, instead of Teamster members and unorganized workers, it’s time for them to go.
With the millions in dues money they will take with them into retirement, there will be no reason to feel sorry for them.Issues: Hoffa Watch
By Chelsea Harris - Labor Notes, July 23, 2015
“I don’t know who you people are!” barked Joe Walker, the owner of Pandora’s Adult Cabaret, a Seattle-area strip club, to the workers gathered in his office. “Why don’t you all go flip burgers!”
But despite this confrontational language—typical of how he often spoke to employees—within hours Walker would give in to their demand for the back pay he owed them.
As a boss, Walker is abhorrent, showing no respect for or concern for the safety of his club’s servers or dancers. Employees had horror stories of working around bodily fluids and other filth with no safety procedures, frequent illness with no health benefits or sick leave, and dancers being stalked and sexually assaulted at the club.
Add to this abusive language and shady bookkeeping. Managers had told bartenders and servers not to report tips. Instead, managers were reporting employee tips as $5 a week.
On April 1 the Seattle minimum wage went up to $11 per hour (the first step in a process towards a $15 per hour minimum wage, which won’t go into effect for two to six years).
But two weeks later, Walker was still paying his servers the old minimum wage of $9.47. When Alyssa, a server at the club, asked when they could expect a wage increase, she was fired.
Lindsay, another server fed up with Walker’s hostility whenever she asked about wages, put in her two weeks’ notice—but was promptly fired too. “You’re beneath this job,” he told her.
Unfortunately for him, Lindsay is in a union: the Seattle branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”), which anyone can join, except people with the power to hire and fire. After meeting with the union’s Seattle general organizing committee, Lindsay and Alyssa began an escalation plan.
FW Patrick, Press Secretary - Kentucky IWW, August 4, 2015
After much tinkering, the KY IWW GMB has developed a way to collect dues on-line. We feel this is an easy way for those members who are from far-off, or simply unable to attend certain meeting days, to remain part of the One Big Union.
You can follow the link through our “Dues and Membership” page to pay dues now or in the future. The link there will direct you to an external page where you can select your dues range and remain a member in good standing.
We’re also hopeful that we’ll have more options through the page in the future, including ways to join the KY IWW on-line, donate to the branch, purchase branch stamps, and so on.
One (or two) final thing(s): notes from the July meeting–including a long think piece on movement music–are forthcoming. Stayed tuned for that. And finally, be sure to join us for the KY IWW GMB open house THIS SATURDAY, 8:00 p.m., at our space in The Mammoth. Hope to see you all there!
By The Houston IWW Solidarity Network - Houston IWW, July 29, 2015
The Houston IWW is engaged in a fight with a local contractor, Felipe Serna, responsible for wage theft of three former employees: Hector, Pancho, and Mauricio. These three men were hired by Felipe Serna in May of 2015 for the remodeling of a house in Sweeny, Texas. They were offered $150/day each for their services and provided room and board at the house. Several days in Serna decides $150 is too much and instead wants to pay them $100/day instead. The men held their ground, stating $150 was the agreed upon wage, and Serna backed off.
While at work one day, Serna tells the men he is letting them go. The men ask for payment for the previous three days of labor and Serna refuses, accusing them of stealing equipment. To add insult to injury, Hector, Pancho, and Mauricio weren’t driven back to Houston, but told to make their own way. It cost them $100 total for them to get transportation back to the city.
Serna and his actions are not an isolated event nor is he an employer that is merely a “bad apple that spoils the bunch.” In fact, Serna is representative of a social force that is exploiting immigrant labor in Houston and in this country. In fact, $750 million in wages are stolen each year in Houston alone! Despite a recent ordinance passed in Houston to curb wage theft, it hasn’t stopped it nor could it. The reality is that Houston capitalists depend on wage theft to maintain existing profit rates and the social hierarchy. This exploitation is backed by a racist Sheriff’s office run by Adrian Garcia that complies with 287g, Secure Communities, a program of collaboration between the police and ICE to deport and detain immigrants.
In the spirit of this perspective, on Friday, July 24th, the Houston IWW with Hector and Pancho marched to The Growing Tree Academy, a daycare facility in the Gulfton area of Houston to deliver demands to Serna, owned by his wife’s family. Because contractors often operate in the shadows, working from their homes and vehicles, they are difficult to track down. Hector read the demand letter in the presence of our union to the staff who kept interrupting him and declaring they have nothing to do with what happened. Serna wasn’t there but showed up later when most of us had left to say he wanted to talk and he was instructed to follow up on the letter.
We are demanding $1,450 in stolen wages including $100 for transportation.
Hector, Pancho, and Mauricio aren’t afraid of these employer thugs who prey on working class people. And neither is the IWW. Work itself is theft. But to steal the little subsistence we are given to reproduce ourselves and our families is despicable. The only way to deal with bosses like Serna is to organize together and fight together.
Thirty-five years ago, the brutal murder of ILWU Local 37 officials Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes sent shock waves through Seattle and the international labor movement. Supporters spent decades gathering evidence of a high-level conspiracy that involved former dictator Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines – and exposed complicity by U.S. officials who backed his bloody regime.
Family members, friends and community supporters gathered in San Francisco on July 17 at ILWU Local 34 to screen a new documentary film about the slain ILWU leaders who led a reform campaign against corruption in Local 37 that represented a predominantly Filipino immigrant workforce employed in Alaskan salmon canneries.
The film, “One Generation’s Time: The Legacy of Silme Domingo & Gene Viernes,” was produced by Shannon Gee. The 1-hour documentary explains how the pair of union activists were also active in the Union of Democratic Filipinos, known as the “KDP,” a left-wing political organization that supported improvements for immigrant Filipino workers and the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. The KDP’s goals spurred hostility from the Marcos regime and from thugs who preyed on union members in ILWU Local 37.
When Viernes and Domingo were gunned down in the union hall on June 1, 1981, the murders were initially reported as isolated acts of violence, and two shooters with gang connections were convicted. But friends and family were convinced there was more to the story, and organized the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes (CJDV) which eventually confirmed that Philippine
President Ferdinand Marcos had ordered the murders. A civil lawsuit eventually returned a $15 million jury verdict against Marcos.
In 1989, a federal jury agreed with the CJDV, and found Marcos guilty of the murders in 1989. Two years later, former Local 37 president and Marcos supporter Constantine “Tony” Baruso, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Viernes.
In 2011, the Inlandboatmen’s Union, Region 37, created an annual scholarship to honor the memory of Domingo and Viernes by assisting students at the University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies Following the film, a discussion was led by Terri Mast, Silme Domingo’s widow and Secretary-Treasurer of the Inlandboatmen’s Union. Joining her was Domingo’s sister, Cindy, who serves as Chief of Staff to Seattle Councilmember Larry Gossett.
“The film has been shown many times on Seattle public television,” said Mast, “and soon copies of the DVD will be more available for the public.”
Anyone wishing to see the film online can do so at www.seattlechannel.org/CommunityStories?videoid=x21162
A diverse delegation of ILWU leaders joined hundreds of community supporters who marched to support workers at the Sakuma Brothers berry farm on July 11.
The effort was organized to help a two-year struggle by Sakuma farmworkers against one of Washington State’s largest berry growers who is refusing to recognize the workers’ independent union: Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice).
Walking for justice ILWU leaders from Locals 9 and 19 in Seattle, and Local 25 in Anacortes, joined forces with ILWU Pensioners, Puget Sound District Council members, and members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU). They met in the morning near Interstate 5 in the Skagit Valley then marched along a side road that passed through miles of lush berry fields, before arriving at Sakuma’s processing facility and labor camp.
Signs of struggle
As marchers arrived at the complex, they could see that Sakuma’s retail “farm stand” and “u-pick” operation were both closed because of growing community opposition to the company’s anti-worker stance. Sakuma even tried giving away their berries for free at one point, but local opposition has made the company’s PR gimmicks ineffective.
Skagit Valley is ground zero
Sakuma’s operation in the beautiful Skagit Valley is located just an hour north of Seattle. The valley’s mild temperatures are perfect for growing strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. An astonishing 3 million pounds of raspberries are grown there annually and each berry must be carefully harvested by skilled hands.
Berry farming is big business
During the past 85 years, Sakuma has grown from a small family farm to a large corporate enterprise that includes a processing plant, controlled storage, commercial nursery and retail operation. The corporation is no longer being managed by the family, confirmed by the hiring of a new CEO last March. Sakuma sells fresh berries to supermarkets and warehouse stores like Costco through the giant Driscoll brand. They also provide berries used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream and other high-profile products.
Strikes past and present
Sakuma workers are all immigrants from southern Mexico, most of whom speak indigenous languages like Mixteco and Triqui. Two years ago they organized a strike against Sakuma over poor pay and working conditions.
Another strike occurred this June when Sakuma berry pickers walked off the job during the first two days of the blueberry harvest. A factor in the recent strike was management’s scheme to isolate union supporters by dividing the workforce into small groups with different start times. Despite the company’s divide-and-conquer tactics, nearly 200 workers expressed support for last month’s work stoppage.
“This was a reprisal action against the union,” said Benito Lopez a member of the executive committee of Familias Unidas por la Justicia. “They wanted to separate us into groups of 10 people, and have each group begin at different times, 15 minutes apart, but we stuck together and walked out of the field in unity against another unjust labor practice. On top of the low wages, now we have to put up with these practices.”
Breaking laws, paying fines
Despite Sakuma’s insistence that they are an exceptional employer, the company has been caught red-handed cheating workers. In 2013, Sakuma agreed to pay an $850,000 settlement for cheating workers out of pay by denying breaks and refusing to pay for hours worked. The cheated an estimated 1,200 farmworkers who will benefit from a lawsuit that the company agreed to settle instead of facing a judge or jury.
Using visas to bust unions
One tactic used by Sakuma and other growers to keep labor costs low and unions out of the fields is the recruitment of guest workers from Mexico. In 2013, Sakuma hired 70 temporary workers from Mexico using the Federal H2A guest worker visa program –claiming that they faced a “labor shortage.”
“Free market” farce
Employers who claim they’re suffering from labor shortages can use the H2-A visa program to avoid raising wages to attract local workers – a flagrant violation of “free market” principles that politicians often adore and companies frequently employ to argue against unions.
Immigrant workers with H2-A visas are easily exploited because employers can quickly return a complaining worker back to Mexico. Even workers who don’t complain can only stay in the U.S. for less than a year, must remain at the same employer, and must immediately return home after their work is finished.
Ski resorts & call centers
Employer abuse of the guest worker visa system is widespread in the agriculture industry but not limited to field work. The hospitality industry is increasing using a similar visa program to hire poor eastern Europeans for “temporary” work in ski resorts and summer lodges. Abuse of guest worker visas has been sanctioned by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the White House, and a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center called it “Close to Slavery.”
The hi-tech industry has successfully used a similar visa scam, known as the H1-B program, to secure scientists, engineers and programmers at low-wages ,= displacing domestic workers. Employers justify their use of the program by making false claims of an alleged “shortage” of high-tech workers. Employers have even used temporary immigrants to replace domestic workers at call centers and customer service operations – all to avoid raising wages or improving conditions.
Public pressure helps
In 2014, Sakuma Farms requested 438 new visas for the year, alleging that it faced a labor shortage. At the same time, it sent strikers letters saying they’d been fired. After workers signed letters saying they were available to work, exposing Sakuma’s lies, the company withdrew its application as pressure mounted on the U.S. Department of Labor to turn down Sakuma’s request.
Trending in wrong direction Photojournalist David Bacon has spent time meeting and interviewing workers, and notes that a decade ago, there were few H-2A workers in Washington State. But by 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor had certified 6,251 applications – a number he says doubled since 2011.
“The irony is that one group of immigrant workers, recruited by growers using the H2-A visa program, are being pitted against another group of recent immigrants from Mexico who have been hired by Sakuma for years,” said Bacon.
Rosalinda Guillén, who directs a local group called “Community2Community” in Bellingham, agrees. “The H-2A program limits what’s possible for all workers,” she says. The community- based group is advocating for farm worker rights as part of a just, sustainable food system.
Boycott Driscoll & Häagen-Dazs
Supporters are now calling for a boycott of all berries marketed under the Driscoll’s label. Driscoll’s is the largest berry marketing operation in the world, that sells to thousands of supermarkets and warehouse stores, including Costco.
Driscoll’s markets Sakuma’s blueberries, and Familias Unidas por la Justicia charges that it is equally responsible with Sakuma for denying workers fair wages and the right to negotiate a union contract. Sakuma also sells strawberries used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
The struggle by Sukuma farm workers was discussed at the ILWU’s 36th International Convention in June. The issue was explained by Rich Austin, President of the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association. Delegates learned of Sakuma’s many abuses, and they took action by unanimously adopting a resolution to support workers and a boycott:
“RESOLVED: that the ILWU calls upon other labor organizations and legislators and congressional delegations to support a boycott of Sakuma Brothers Farms, Haagen-Dazs, and Driscoll’s Berries until the demands of Familias Unidas Por La Justicia are met.”
The day before the march, ILWU leaders joined other supporters for strategy discussions with union leaders from Familias Unidas por la Justicia.
Other union leaders from Washington State, California and Mexico also attended the meeting. Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson marched with workers and supporters the following day.
“This is an important campaign that crosses borders to unite the common concerns of workers,” said Austin, noting that berry workers in Mexico’s Baja California have also been striking– and that those berries are also sold by Driscoll. “It’s not an easy fight, but the important fights are never easy,” he said. “Solidarity and unity are the best weapons we have to fight injustice and capitalist greed.”
On July 20, I lost a friend and the Teamsters Union lost a warrior for workers, women’s rights when Gillian Furst passed away.
I met Gillian and her husband, Randy Furst, at the 1989 TDU Convention in Pittsburgh. That convention was the kick-off of Ron Carey’s campaign, and where TDU voted to endorse Carey. Gillian had worked as a Teamster for years at the Honeywell instrument factory in Minneapolis, but had no contact with TDU.
As soon as she joined, she was fully committed.
Gillian and Randy had activist experience, and when they got excited about TDU, they never looked back.Gillian was elected a delegate from Local 1145 to the 1991 IBT Convention. She rose to second a nomination for VP at-large: “When I think of fearlessness, I think of Diana Kilmury. When I think of honesty, I think of Diana Kilmury…it is with joy in my heart that I second the nomination of Diana Kilmury.”
Gillian Furst at the 1991 IBT Convention
Kilmury was the first woman ever elected to the General Executive Board, on the Ron Carey slate. Carey appointed Gillian to be a member of the IBT Ethical Practices Committee.
Gillian and Randy became key organizers for TDU in Minnesota, and she served for a time on the TDU International Steering Committee. She has long been retired, but stayed active, until recently, when her failing health made that impossible.
She was always ready to support a strike and to help workers organize. Her home was frequently a center of activity.
As recently as this April, we held a fundraiser at Gillian and Randy’s home, where she delighted in teasing me about various things. I had a lot of fun with Gillian over the years.
Randy, true to form, remains active in TDU in Minnesota and in supporting the Teamsters United campaign.
Gillian passed away peacefully at home, at the age of 81. Our thoughts go out to Randy and Gillian’s three children.
We will try to live up to the high standard that she set for us.
Ken Paff, National Organizer of Teamsters for a Democratic Union
Issues: TDU History
Thousands of ILWU members, their families, community supporters and elected officials gathered at parks, cemeteries and union halls up and down the West Coast to mark the 81st anniversary of Bloody Thursday and pay respects to those who sacrificed their lives in 1934 in order to build the ILWU.
Southern California’s Bloody Thursday tradition in the Harbor Area involved up to 2,000 ILWU members, friends and family.
Morning for martyrs
The first – and some say most important part of the day – began with a morning assembly at Gardena’s Roosevelt Memorial Park where ILWU members gathered to honor the first two martyrs killed in the bloody 1934 struggles that gave birth to the union.
First Blood of 1934
Dickie Parker and John Knudsen were both buried at Roosevelt Park after being shot, along with five other union members, by company-employed goons shortly after midnight on May 15, 1934 at Berth 145 in Wilmington. The first deadly confrontation on the docks that year between strikers and strike-breakers involved the employer’s use of armed private guards. Dickie Parker died on the way to the hospital while John Knudsen lingered for weeks before dying of his wounds. Public response to the killing of both men was impressive, with an estimated 8,000 lining the streets from San Pedro to Gardena to witness the procession of cars that stretched six miles. Law enforcement warned of a riot following the funeral, but because both events were peaceful, public support increased for the union cause.
Eighty-one years later at a few minutes after 10am, Local 13’s Angel Blanco called together 50 participants – most of whom arrived in dozens of tricked-out classic cars and scores of motorcycles from the Longshoremen’s Motorcycle Club. They gathered quietly at the graveside of Dickie Parker, offering prayers and reflections.
“The picnic later this afternoon is great, but this event is the most important part of the day for me and everyone here,” said Blanco. The service started with a beautiful solo rendition of the national anthem following a soulful benediction and prayer.
Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., noted that the remains of more than100 charter longshore union members are found in the surrounding graves at Roosevelt Memorial Park, making it “hallowed ground.” He thanked Local 65 brothers from the Port Police for attending and providing their motorcycle escort for the car caravan that followed the service.
He concluded by reminding everyone that sacrifices made this year by longshore workers struggling for a new contract cannot be forgotten – because they are part of a larger struggle by one generation after another – beginning with the ultimate sacrifice made by Dickie Parker and John Knudsen in 1934.
Pensioner Jerry Brady read his Bloody Thursday poem that brought tears to the eyes of some, followed by Pensioner and former International President Dave Arian who reminded the group that today’s ceremony had been dropped for decades before being restored during the 1980’s.
At 10:30, engines roared to life in the classics, cruisers, hot-rods and Harleys that slowly pulled out of the Memorial Park behind a symbolic hearse provided by All Soul’s Mortuary in Long Beach. The mock funeral procession made its way through a ten-mile trek south to San Pedro, passing along the waterfront and going up 7th Street through downtown before arriving at Peck Park where hundreds of family members were already gathered for the Bloody Thursday picnic.
Local 13 member Bobby Rodriguez and his wife Liz brought up the rear of the caravan, So Cal style, in their tastefully lowered, very cherry 1937 Chevy Master Deluxe, part of the Solo Riders Car Club.
“We come every year!” they said.
Picnic with a purpose
Union members arriving at the park could hear it was happening from blocks away, thanks to the excellent live music provided by three local bands that are connected through The band “Jamin’ Mood” opened the event, followed by a mid-day performance from the group “Low-Key,” and ended with DW-3 who closed out the event before heading to Miami for a big gig there. Dancing increased during the afternoon as the crowd increased.
A wide-range and food and drinks were available at no cost to members and families that included hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos and burritos. But the BBQ pits seemed to generate the most heat between cooks and patrons, with notable contributions from the Longshoremen’s Motorcycle Club and Heavy-Hitters softball team, with Nacho Sanchez and Shakey Namahoe from the Hitters especially proud of their tri-tip. Local 13’s team of Johnny and Manuel Amaro grilled hundreds of jalapeno peppers that went into their burritos and were cooled with icy agua frescas.
Kids had a blast
Much of the picnic festivities focused on entertainment for kids – which gave grown-ups a chance to relax and socialize while their children played safely on a dizzying assortment of activities that included several bounce houses, slides, basketball, two video-game arcade trucks and face painting.
Pensioner & Auxiliary presence
The Southern California Pensioners Group had a booth with tables, chairs, food and goodies available for dozens who dropped-by. The always active ILWU Federated Auxiliary Local 8 ladies worked the crowd, selling raffle tickets for a local benefit.
Just a dash of politics
An impressive roster of politicians attended the picnic to mingle, shake hands and provide mercifully short greetings. Introduced by Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., the elected officials paid their respects to the union’s bloody beginnings and expressed support for the union’s recent battle for the new longshore contract. Attendees included Congress members Janice Hahn and Alan Lowenthal, State Treasurer John Chiang, State Senator Isadore Hall, ILWU-endorsed State Senate candidate Warren Furutani, State Senator Ricardo Lara (represented by staffer Cory Allen), Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino (represented by staffer Gabby Medina), Long Beach City Councilmember Roberto Uranga, Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, Assemblymember Mike Gipson (represented by staffer Chris Wilson) and Long Beach School Board member Felton Williams.
Olvera also introduced several ILWU union officials who attended the event from out of state, including Local 8 member Jim Daw from Portland who serves on the ILWU International Executive Board, Local 23 President Dean McGrath from Tacoma, Local 8 member and Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet and Local 19 President Cameron Williams from Seattle. Longtime Local 13 member and retiring Coast Committeeman Ray Ortiz Jr., was also recognized and thanked for his many years of service.
Planning for success
“We planned to handle up to 2,000 guests and came pretty close,” said Jose Olivaras who chaired the Bloody Thursday Committee that included Steve Linares, Melon Cesar, Nacho Enriques and Paul Zuanich – plus a team of 120 volunteers that included more than a dozen volunteers from the Beacon House Association of San Pedro.
“We started putting this together three months ago, and it all came together in a good way, thanks to everyone’s hard work,” said Olivaras.
Scores of ILWU members, pensioners and their families gathered at the Local 10 hall in San Francisco for the traditional Bloody Thursday memorial serviced sponsored by the Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association (BALMA) and Locals 10, 34, 75 and 91.
ILWU member Scott Barton performed taps once again to honor the waterfront strikers who were killed in 1934. Talented singer Aaliyah Washington-Purry, who has also performed at previous Bloody Thursday memorials, sang the National Anthem again this year. Local 10 President Melvin Mackay welcomed everyone to the Local 10 hall and reminded them that the wages and working conditions enjoyed by ILWU members today were built on the sacrifices of those who fought and died in 1934 – and the generations of longshore workers who continued that struggle.
Local 10 pensioner Lawrence Thibeaux served as the master of ceremonies for the event. Following Melvin Mackay’s speech, ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz recounted the failed strikes at West Coast ports in 1916 and 1919 that faltered because of the disunity that prevailed until 1934.
ILWU pensioner and former ILWU
Librarian Gene Vrana gave a concise history of the 1934 strike, its impact and legacy. Other speakers at the event included BALMA Treasurer Mike Villeggiante, Local 34 President Sean Farley, former Local 10 Presidents Cleophas Williams and Joe Lucas, and ILWU Pensioner George Romero.
Farley’s address highlighted recent legislation being pushed by Republican Senator John Thune that would greatly expand the Taft-Hartley provision of the National Labor Relations Act by empowering state governors to intervene in strikes or worker “slow downs” at the nations ports.
Farley said this was a serious and historic threat to the ILWU’s strength and would weaken the ability of port workers to fight for fair wages and safe working conditions.
After the memorial, Local 10 hosted a full day of activities in their hall including a catered lunch of pizza and pasta, live music and dancing, and plenty of activities for kids that included a magic show, face painting, balloon art and caricature drawings.
Puget Sound picnic with a purpose
Puget Sound ILWU families celebrated Bloody Thursday on July 5th at the Vasa Park & Resort along the shores of beautiful Lake Sammamish.
The all-day gathering at was located just 8 miles away from Seattle, but the cool waters and beautiful forest seemed a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the city and docks.
An estimated 700 union members and family participated in the July 5 event that combined an important ceremony that remembered the union’s past – while providing some serious entertainment and relaxation opportunities for hard-working family members and kids.
The food was plentiful and delicious, with barbequed ribs, brisket, chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers – along with grilled tofu that was said to be surprisingly tasty.
To honor Bloody Thursday, Local 19 pensioners John Fisher and Carl Woeck led a ceremony recognizing each of the seven union martyrs who were killed during the 1934 west coast maritime strike that established the foundation for today’s ILWU. After Fisher and Woeck struck the bell 7 times to honor the 1934 martyrs, they struck the bell again for each ILWU member and pensioner who had passed during the previous year.
Awesome fun and games
A nearby boat ramp allowed some members to bring their own boats, but most of the action focused on shore side activities. A waterslide was provided especially for the picnic and proved to be among the most popular amusements, but there was stiff competition from the bouncy house and airbrush face and arm-painting booth. Some drove their classic cars to the event and= put them proudly on display. There were no speeches from politicians – although Local 19’s own John Persak, who’s running for Seattle City Council, was welcomed and made the rounds.
A local sound ordinance ruled-out a live band, but Local 19 member Leith Jasinowski-Kahl brought his banjo and played some classic union songs.
The successful event required many volunteers who generously gave their time to help 700 participants enjoy a special day. The volunteer team included: Mike Callahan, Dusty Crabtree, Sarah Esch, Warren Fairbanks with kids Jeremy & Anna, John Fisher, Mary Fuller, Cosette Hill, Mike Hurlock, Leith Jasinowski-Kahl, Scott Martinez, Dan Philo, Max Proctor, Alice Thacker, Randy Wilber, Charlie Wilbert and Carl Woeck.
“The volunteers were fantastic and made a great day possible for hundreds of hard-working families to relax and celebrate a important date in union history,” said Local 19 Executive Board member and Trustee Justin Hirsch who helped coordinate the event.
Tacoma picnics at the lake
Local 23 members in Tacoma honored Bloody Thursday with their traditional picnic held at beautiful Spanaway Lake Park, located 15 miles south of Tacoma on 135 acres of forested shoreline.
An estimated 600 family members participated at this year’s event that featured a barbeque lunch where hundreds and dogs and burgers were served. Special attractions provided for children were a big hit, especially the inflatable bounce toys that included a pirate ship. Pony rides were popular with the younger ones, and a local artist painted dozens of faces and arms for both children and adults.
The event was planned and executed by a hard-working team that included Trustees Eric Sowers, Art Jackson, Kyle Copeland, Perry Smith and Dan Witker. Volunteers included Jeff Clowers and Dave Barker who headedthe kids’ games with help from many others. As usual, Local 23 Pensioners were generous about volunteering their time to make the event a success.
A Cook County judge has handed a stinging rebuke to John Coli, a major union backer of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ordering him and a Teamsters local that represents more than 12,000 government employees to pay more than $2.3 million to resolve a lawsuit over a broken lease for offices in Des Plaines.
Judge Raymond W. Mitchell ruled in favor of the Des Plaines building’s owners, who had sued Coli and Teamsters Local 700. The union represents city of Chicago, Cook County, state and suburban workers.
Click here to read more.Issues: Labor Movement
UPS Inc. announced it has agreed to buy truckload brokerage Coyote Logistics for $1.8 billion to expand its presence in the non-asset-based sector. The package carrier, which already has a small truckload brokerage as well as international brokerage and forwarding businesses, said in a statement that closing is expected within 30 days. Private equity company Warburg Pincus is selling the business that had $2.1 billion in sales last year and ranks No. 39 on the Transport Topics Logistics 50.
Click here to read more.
July 31, 2015: YRCW stock jumped 25% within minutes of today’s opening, following the second quarter report on YRCW’s best period in a decade. What will it mean for 20,000 Teamsters who made it possible?
YRCW’s operating profit for the quarter was $56.9 million, compared to $20 million a year ago. Analysts noted that YRCW’s profits are up on lower revenues, as LTL freight has declined a bit in 2015.
YRC’s operating ratio is a respectable 97.2%, and YRC’s Regionals hit the jackpot with an operating ratio of 91.9%, better than some nonunion competitors.
YRCW Teamsters have sacrificed many thousands of dollars in wages, and more than that in lost pensions. Is it time to start planning for revisiting some of the concessions – we think so. It’s also time for the IBT reps on YRCW’s board to make sure equipment is upgraded, rather than exec perks or some pet project.
YRCW Teamsters in the West have been kicked out of the Western Conference Pension Plan, with no chance of earning an early retirement (PEER 80). How about lifting that punishment of the Teamsters who made YRCW’s profits possible?
YRCW Teamsters across the country are asking if this profitability will lead to any consideration of proposals by the International Union, which has done nothing, but congratulate themselves for giving concessions.
The Hoffa administration has done nothing for freight Teamsters: no real organizing, to saving the NMFA, and they’ve completely failed to protect Teamster pensions.
Fortunately, they can be voted out of office in 2016 – if Teamsters unite to make it happen.Issues: Freight